NORTH TONAWANDA, N.Y. (WIVB) – The St. Mary and St. Moses Coptic Orthodox Church is opening its doors this weekend for its 9th annual Egyptian Festival.
It’s a chance for community members to see the church for themselves, while celebrating the Egyptian and Coptic cultures.
“The Egyptians and the Copts themselves have a long history and I think it’s nice to share it,” said Father Mark Iskander, “And a lot of people don’t know there are actually Christians in Egypt.”
In fact, there are millions of Coptic Christians in Egypt and the countries around it. There are also several dozen Coptic families in Western New York.
This weekend, they are once again inviting their neighbors in to learn more about their faith and culture, and to dispel a few misconceptions about modern Egypt.
“You get some questions, like ‘do you know what a car is?’ ‘Do you know what computer is?’ So yeah, I don’t live in a pyramid, I live in a house,” laughed Mina Kirolos, a church member who dresses as a pharaoh for the festival.
“Not many people know what Egypt is besides pyramids and camels and pharaohs and things like that,” said Tom Gadelrab, a church deacon. “Today, the Egyptian culture is still very rich, so we’d like to share that.”
Festival goers can enjoy everything from tours of the historic church building to gift shops featuring Ancient Egyptian and modern Christian gifts, plus family-friendly activities, a kids corner, and a chance to take a photo with a pharaoh.
Everyone should bring a big appetite. The festival features tons of authentic middle eastern and Egyptian dishes, made on site. Many vegan options are available, too, since observant Copts abstain from eating animal products more than 220 days a year.
News 4’s Katie Alexander had a chance to taste a few dishes and desserts while getting a sneak peak of the Egyptian Festival on News 4 Wake Up Friday. Click on the videos below to see the full coverage.
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Festival attendees who come out to try the delicious food and the rest of the fun activities help the St. Mary and St. Moses congregation continue to transform the former Baptist church building where they now worship. The Egyptian Festival is the largest support for the church’s projects, like the ongoing window replacements. The new windows will be insulated and better able to stand up to Western New York’s winters, and they’ll be smaller than the old windows to accommodate Coptic iconography that’s currently being painted in Egypt for the church.
“Whatever we fundraise from the festival helps to renovate the church little by little,” Father Iskander said.
The Egyptian Festival is open at the St. Mary and St. Moses Coptic Orthodox Church at 350 Wheatfield Street in North Tonawanda for the following hours:
- Friday – 4 p.m. – 9 p.m.
- Saturday – 11 a.m. – 9 p.m.
- Sunday – Noon – 8 p.m.